Rendering the Fat (Homestead Cooking)

Rendering the Fat

I tried my hand at something new for homestead cooking. Making bear lard. Andrew saved me a bunch of fat he trimmed from the bear meat we sent him from Craig last spring. I planned to use the fat in making deer sausage, but we already had a lot of pork fat in the freezer, so I researched how to render it into lard for baking and sautéing.

I diced the fat into about 1 inch chunks, cutting away as much of the straggling meat as was practical. I knew I wanted to heat the fat only till it turned to liquid, and to be careful not to burn or fry the cracklins – which, I found out, is the fat and any meat that would not render – if I wanted the best product.

Several articles recommended a slow cooker, but I could not make Sara’s mom’s ancient slow cooker work right. So, I transferred all the fat to an enamel cast iron pot. I put the stove flame on low, and soon, the fat started to “melt” to oil. I looked up what was happening during the rendering process, and found heating the fat drives off the water from the fat, leaving behind the oil that makes lard.

After several hours, I had a pile of cracklins in the center of a growing pool of liquid. The cracklins were soft and looked chewy. I thought maybe they were supposed to be drier and crisp, but after looking at the online images, I saw they looked just like cracklins were supposed to.
I ladled all the liquid I could. It was a slight orange color, so I had not been perfect, as a clearer yellow color was what I was shooting for. I waited a few hours longer for more oil to render, and didn’t see much more fat turning to liquid, so I removed the remaining oil to let it cool. I had about filled the 6 quart pot with bear fat at the start, and it yielded about a quart of oil.

I strained the oil first through a metal mesh strainer, and then through cheesecloth. The liquid had a rather strong, gamy smell. I thought it might not be usable, but I’d gone this far with the hours of cooking, so had to try it.

I poured the cooled oil into a quart sized yogurt container, put the lid on, and put it in the fridge to solidify.

The next day, I was putting together dinner, and had some brussel sprouts to use. I took out the lard, and it looked like it was supposed to – the same consistency as “bacon grease”. It still had a strong odor. I put a spoonful in the pot, and watched it melt. As it melted, I noticed no smell.

I tossed in a handful of quartered sprouts in the oil, and sautéed until they were slightly browned and had softened. I tentatively tasted a quarter. And it was good. No discernible gamy taste.  I threw the rest of the sprouts into the pan and sauteed the rest for dinner.  I’d see if Sara noticed anything when she ate them. She did not.

So, my lard wasn’t perfect, but it was edible.

This morning, I thought I’d see how biscuits tasted using the lard. I don’t remember ever making biscuits before. I found a simple recipe that didn’t involve a lot of chilling this or that.  Just mix together flour, baking powder and salt with lard and milk. It made a dozen little biscuits in a cup cake tin in short time.

The biscuits weren’t light and flaky like they may have been if I’d made the kind you roll out and then use a cookie cutter, but like the sprouts, they were edible. And no gamy taste from the lard.

Tonight it’s going to be some gravy made with the deer sausage I made last week over the biscuits. My guess is Sara will like this, too.